The weekend leading to Lil Z’s 6th birthday wasn’t really all about chicken nuggets and pasta. After all, her meat eating parents also have some say in her celebratory food. Making soft toys with friends in Build-a-Bear comes later. But meat first. That too of the Afghani kind. A place that had been high on my radar after S had been talking about it. He had previously sneaked in some home delivery while the Z-Sisters and I had been away. A small restaurant just opposite Lulu Supermarket in Al Barsha, serving the most ‘delicious Chapli Kebab and Karahi Lamb’, he said. I was obviously sold. For a while I had been busy with gobbling up edible gold and some breathatking views in Dubai and I was craving for food that went straight into the tummy, without the frills and garnishes of caviar. The tagline said ‘Wakha – Where We Treat Ewe Right’, and truly we were.
The lassis that started off our meals came in tall steel glasses – it was very clear that portion sizes here were going to be over generous. Meat is ordered according to weight and then prepared. You choose your cut and decide the way the meat is prepared. Lamb is hung and is aged, and you can see all of this across the glass windows of the open kitchen. Apart from the menu hailing from Afghanistan, Wakha also prides itself for being the only restaurant in Dubai serving Shinwari cuisine. Afghani cuisine has influences of Persian, Indian, Pakistani and also Russian cuisine and is a blend of Central Asian, South Asian, Eastern Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines. While the Mantou are meat stuffed dumplings with yogurt sauce and has distinct Chinese and Central Asian influences, the Lavash is a thin bread holding meats and stews – a clear Middle Eastern influence. Although there is a predominance of meat based dishes, most Afghan dishes are traditionally non-spicy.Excepting the Shinwari Lamb Karahi (above). A recipe that is also very popular across the Afghani border in Pakistan and is cooked deliciously by another Pakistani restaurant here. The Karhai style of preparing the meat, chicken or fish is also very popular in Punjabi cooking and a staple in any Pakistani household – a garnish of freshly grated ginger pieces crowning the dish. The Karahi arrived accompanied by oven fresh Afghani Naan – long and oval shaped thick whole wheat breads topped with sesame and nigella seeds. In Shinwari cuisine, meat is chargrilled with no spices at all excepting salt, and in it’s own fat. Slow cooking lends a succulence and tenderness to the meat and this Shinwari meat had then been cooked in a gravy of tomatoes, onions and a combination of masalas. Again, the order for Karahi was taken by weight – 500 gms for the five of us, and there was a Wakha Platter and Chapli Kababs (another 500gms) soon to follow. Nothing was pre-cooked, so a long wait followed the placing of our order – a wait that is worth every fil that is spent on the bill in Wakha.Wakha Platter. It arrived surrounded by an aroma of nothing but meat. A combination of Shinwari Lamb Tikka, Shinwari Chicken Tikka, Kabuli Beef Tikka, Kabuli Beef Kebab, Kabuli Chicken Tikka – mounted on a bed of fragrant saffron rice and raisins – the latter being the famous Kabuli Pulao, the national dish of Afghanistan and ane of the most popular dishes of Afghanistan (also Pakistan). Kabuli Pulao or the pilav is an Afghan pilaf dish (again a very strong Persian influence here) made by cooking long grained fine rice in a rich broth of either lamb, chicken or beef. It is then baked in the oven and is topped with fried carrot Julienne, raisins, strips of orange peel and chopped nuts like pistachios or almonds. In Wakha Restaurant, the Kabuli Pulao had been cooked in a mixed broth of beef shanks and served with Kofta Nakhod – seasoned beef meatballs cooked with ground chickpeas, onions and other spices. And that brings us back to the Kabuli style of cooking – the city’s multi cultural influence has had a great impact on Afghani cuisine in its the use of many spices, yogurt, garnishes – as was evident from the Kabuli Pulao that graced our Wakha Platter.
What I am not discussing in this post are the Chapli Kebabs. Firstly, because they were swept off by the Z-Sisters before I could take any picture (very unlike them as they are very well trained and waits until the food is clicked by their food blogger mom!) and also because, I will leave them for a future post on Chapli Kebabs vs Galouti Kababs – the latter being my other Kebab weakness. Usually, a meal outside results in a lot of information gathering and survey, clicking of photos from my part – but not this time. I didn’t care that the menu didn’t have any Afghani dessert (why Gulab Jamun for God sake, no Kheer?) to sign off our meals . Generally, I really care whether a restaurant serves good dessert or not. I also didn’t remember asking the name of the soft-spoken humble staff who served us and guided us through our orders (Dear Buddy, we could have saved on the bill with a little less order – but no complaints). This time it was only for falling in love and shamelessly tucking into the myriad of meat and the fine rice grains, the greasy chunks of minced meat cakes by the name of Chapli Kebab and sips into my tall chilled lassi. And I bet that if Shakira had eaten here, she would be forced to rephrase her song to Wakha Wakha eh eh (This Time For Afghanistan)!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
Disclaimer: Wakha Restaurant in Al Barsha. The bill came to Dhs 380 for 5 persons – 3 extremely hungry adults and 2 kids. We also came back with a parcel that took care of our lunch the next day! All pictures have been taken by me unless mentioned otherwise. Please note that this post is not a sponsored post and the subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and are independent. While you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts. Do join me on my daily food and travel journey on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.